CIDG to DOJ: Stop witness protection for ‘uncooperative’ Kerwin Espinosa

Rambo Talabong
CIDG to DOJ: Stop witness protection for ‘uncooperative’ Kerwin Espinosa
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group has appealed to the justice department as early as September 2017. As of March 2018, Espinosa remains under witness protection.

MANILA, Philippines – Citing hostility and lack of cooperation, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to remove self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa from its Witness Protection Program (WPP).

“I have a letter to the secretary asking to remove him [from WPP], because he was on temporary WPP that time,” PNP CIDG chief Director Roel Obusan said in a press conference on Wednesday, March 14.

He added: “If you keep on changing, where is your credibility? If Kerwin is changing, what’s the use having him as a witness and enjoying the privileges in the WPP? Nothing.” 

Obusan said he sent the letter around September 2017, just a month after the preliminary investigation on the drug charges against Cebu businessman Peter Lim and his alleged accomplices commenced.

Context: During the preliminary investigation, Kerwin apparently retracted his confession that he was involved in the Central Visayas drug network. He made the confession under oath before a Senate panel probe in November 2016.

The CIDG had hoped to receive the same level of cooperation from him in pinning down Cebu businessman Peter Lim, but when it was time for Espinosa to speak out, he supposedly turned “hostile” and “uncooperative.”

This was enough reason for the CIDG to exclude Espinosa’s retracted statements in their case, heavily relying instead on testimonies by Lim’s aide, Marcelo Adorco.

The DOJ panel tasked to review the CIDG’s case against Lim, Espinosa, and their accomplices later found that Adorco’s statements were not reliable, thus dismissing the CIDG’s case.

The CIDG has since filed a motion for reconsideration.

Aguirre’s response: After waiting for months, Obusan said Aguirre has not yet decided whether the DOJ would keep Espinosa protected.

Even without a response, the justice secretary’s actions speak louder, however.

Espinosa has remained under the DOJ’s protection up until his most recent public appearances. Photos of his court appearance last February showed he was assisted by WPP personnel, complete with a helmet and a bulletproof vest.

In a text message, Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes also confirmed to Rappler that Espinosa remains protected by the WPP.

Rappler has reached out to Espinosa’s lawyer Raymund Fortun for comment. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.